Review: Okamiden

Okamiden Review - Box

Okami was the game that got me into gaming. How was the sequel?

Okamiden was a game I picked up hesitantly. After seeing the artwork for the main character, I was afraid the developers had changed the direction of Okami to try to appeal to fans of Nintendogs and that it would butcher my fond memories of its predecessor. It was only after the strong recommendation and urging of a close friend who had finished both games that I decided to play Okamiden.

Okamiden is based largely on Japanese mythology and the plot and characters are lifted from these myths. The end of Okami saw the sun goddess Amaterasu supposedly rid the world of demons, yet a mere nine months later they had returned to again terrorise the land of Nippon. It then fell to Amaterasu’s son, Chibiterasu, to find out why they were back and to eliminate them once and for all. Okamiden takes a different approach than most games; with a wolf pup as the main character, it tried to be cute. This fact was, initially, something that put me off starting the game. But the developers pulled it off which some absolutely adorable moments involving Chibiterasu and the playfulness that comes with puppies, but without it feeling too over the top.

Okamiden Review - Chibiterasu and Kuni
Chibiterasu and his first partner, Kuni.

Chibiterasu met several interesting people throughout the course of Okamiden, a few of which joined him for a short time. All of those who accompanied him as a partner were children of characters from the previous game. Each partner had their own unique ability and a section of the game built around that ability, complete with dungeon. Chibiterasu never had more than one partner accompanying him at any given time, so it was not possible to swap between partners at will. Each partner had their own personality and sense of humour; the characters in Okamiden always seemed to find a new way to make me laugh.

Chibiterasu, like his mother before him, used the Celestial Brush as his primary weapon. Pressing a shoulder button on your DS would freeze gameplay and allowed you to draw with your stylus. Drawing certain symbols would unleash certain attacks or effects. Okamiden is good at distinguishing one symbol from the next; I never had any recognition issues. This form of fighting and puzzle solving was fluid and convenient; it didn’t feel like it interrupted gameplay at all. In fact, my all-time favourite final boss fight is the one in Okamiden; the touch screen controls were just way too fun.

Here, Chibiterasu has just restored the health of some cherry blossoms. Those white Japanese symbols you see on the screen represent Praise.
Here, Chibiterasu has just restored the health of some cherry blossoms. Those white Japanese symbols you see on the screen represent Praise.

Unlike in regular RPGs, levelling up in Okamiden did not require Chibiterasu to just defeat as many foes as possible. Praise is used instead of experience points and was earned when you gave people cause to believe in the gods again. Chibiterasu, being the son of a god, was able to draw strength from this. Doing sidequests, helping people out and restoring nature and the land of Nippon to its former glory were all good ways to earn praise.

There were plenty of things to collect in Okamiden. In the main menu, located conveniently on the touch screen, was a list of items Chibiterasu could find on his quest. These included scrolls, the ripped pieces of a broken painting, ancient artifacts and more. Chibiterasu could even go fishing by using his Celestial Brush to draw a fishing line, and there was a major town-building sidequest encountered at the beginning of the game that he can devote his time to.

The music in Okamiden was composed by Rei Kondo, who also worked on the soundtrack for Okami and Bayonetta. While some of the tracks from Okami made a return with some alterations, the majority of Okamiden’s sountrack was brand new.  The music in the game had a distinct Japanese feel to it to match the look of the game. The art style is a form of Asian ink wash painting which suited the mood of the game and ensured the graphics will never seem outdated. Given that Chibiterasu’s weapon of choice happened to be a divine brush, it seemed rather appropriate in that regard.

Okamiden Review - View

Okamiden is a beautiful game for the DS that makes excellent use of the touch screen for an overall enjoyable experience. The music is wonderful to listen to, the plot an intriguing one to delve into and the characters fun to interact with. While people who have played Okami will get more out of this game than those who haven’t, pretty much anyone looking for a cute game not afraid to make fun of itself should seriously consider picking up Okamiden.

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